Teaching ESL to Children
Teaching ESL to children is challenging but also very rewarding.
Before I walk into a class of 10-year olds, I take a deep
breath. Children have no attention span AT ALL, and so I tell
myself to slow right down before I start. Teaching children
requires patience and a sense of fun and playfulness. Even
though it seems obvious, a common mistake is to think that
children are simply 'short adults!' This is sure to get you off
on the wrong foot!
Here are some tips for teaching ESL to children:
1. Involve Children in an hands-on Activities. Children's minds
are incredibly open and they learn by absorbing ideas and
concepts directly. Children need to be actively involved. Get
students up and out of their chairs and moving around. Sing
songs, and play games.
2. Avoid talking for long periods of time. I find that the
energy level of the classroom drops lower and lower. Explain an
activity quickly and then go to it. Keep the energy moving! If
your planned activity is a flop, move on. Keep a few extra
activities handy for this purpose. Children need lots of
stimulation all the time.
3. Children learn by interacting with each other and with the
teacher. Try to talk to each child individually each class.
Whenever possible, have children working in groups and in pairs.
4. Review, Review, Review. New information is absorbed and has
meaning when it is related to information students have already
learned. Quickly review new concepts at the beginning of each
5. Encourage students to correct themselves and other students.
Self correction or self-regulation is an important part of
learning. Students should be encouraged to ask, "How am I
doing?" and "Am I doing this right?" in an open and
non-judgmental environment. Children raised in authoritative
cultures may need additional re-inforcement.
6. Use what is learned in different contexts. The more contexts
used the better, and the more concrete and 'real life' the
contexts the better. Make it real for students by talking about
them and their lives.
7. Praise, Praise, Praise. Encourage and build students up in a
natural way. Learning occurs when students are motivated and
feel good about themselves.
Looking back on my years of teaching, the children's classes
took a bit of getting used to, but were the most memorable and